Mutual aid isn’t just for groceries anymore.
In the weeks after the city Department of Education transitioned to remote learning, 10th-grade Ozone Park teacher and candidate for City Council Felicia Singh began responding to the obstacles of remote learning.
Just as groups of neighbors have organized around the city to form aid groups that have delivered groceries and necessities to the city’s vulnerable populations, Singh began recruiting teachers for a volunteer group to help relieve some strain from struggling parents.
That group, Queens Remote Learning Aid, launched May 8. The team of nine moderators, who come from a variety of educational backgrounds, have created a Facebook page where parents and students can get help from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“If it’s 5 o’clock or 7 o’clock and families are still doing math homework or English homework, they can easily go to this platform and be like, ‘Hey, I’m having trouble explaining X to my child. Is there anyone here who can help me?’” Singh said.
The moderators split up the hours during the week into shifts, so that they can hop on a call with the student or message him or her to help with questions.
Singh wanted to assist working parents who were struggling to find time to help their children adapt to the new educational landscape. She said that since Queens has the most cases, that leads to more families who are preoccupied with health, financial or food access issues, often at the expense of their children’s education.
Now that the group is assembled, its new task is to reach the parents who need it the most. Since launching, the Facebook page has gained more 150 followers, but students and parents have still been slow to ask for help. It’s not that the need isn’t out there, but the group will need to build its following to engage with the students who need its help.
One of the moderators, Bibi Chaterpateah, a seventh-grade chemistry teacher at a Brooklyn charter school, said that the most common frustration among her students are technology issues.
A few of her students have very severe internet issues. When many siblings are using Wi-Fi at the same time, it can slow down the connection, stopping the educational software from working properly.
“Walking the students through how to troubleshoot can be stressful,” Chaterpateah said. “That for me is a bigger issue. Kids can get really frustrated when they’re like, ‘Oh, it’s not working.’”
She said that providing a real-time response when the parents are not readily available is crucial. There isn’t a technology specialist among the moderators, but they do have a digital library of teaching materials to help answer questions on topics or subjects that they don’t normally teach.
The group includes a child psychologist and a social worker as well as special education teachers and literacy specialists. As the organization grows in members, Singh hopes to host webinars with both educational professionals and weekly discussions with parents.
“We want to really support families who are still very heavily on Facebook, and provide them with a space and a platform to talk about issues in regards to remote learning,” said Singh.
To get in touch with a moderator, parents can visit the Facebook page or send an email to QueensRLA@gmail.com.